Q: We're thinking of turning a small bedroom adjacent to the master bedroom into a combination bath and exercise room. Besides a whirlpool tub for two, the thing I really want is a fireplace. My husband says forget it, it's not practical. What do you think?
A: I think you'd adore the fireplace. The double whirlpool is the thing I'd reconsider. Interior designers all over the country these days are reporting chronic disuse of giant-size whirlpools. The reason: In our time-pressed and environmentally distressed world of the '90s, those big tubs take too long to fill, use too much water and require too much synchronization from couples who're too busy to schedule a tandem soak.
A fireplace for two (rooms, that is) makes great sense if you're remodeling. The Sybaritic bath we show here features a fireplace that opens to the master bedroom on the other side, simultaneously warming the view from the whirlpool on the other. This no-holds-barred-on-the-luxury bath was designed for a Masco show home in Las Vegas, land of the grand gesture, by Vivian and Rick Miller of Miller and Jedrziewski. Among their other ideas that offer inspiration:
The all-glass, oversize Huppe shower "room" is much less space-filling than other enclosures.
The slate floor. An attractive variation on ceramic tile and marble.
A chaise lounge for total relaxation. Furniture in the bath always takes off the utilitarian edge.
Q: The baby is very new, but already I'm thinking about how to make his room a creative learning environment as he grows. Can you suggest products or ideas along these lines?
A: Right now, stimulate the baby's responses, both physically and psychologically, with bright colors and a variety of shapes and textures. Puny pastels are for adults; babies need visual action. As he grows, keep researching wallcoverings. A number of manufacturers offer wallcoverings that "teach." Environmental Graphics, for example, has borders with authentically depicted dinosaurs and wallcoverings with musical scores or sailing ships.
You can also wallpaper the galaxy overhead with stars that glow in the dark and even put up interactive wallcoverings -- wipe-clean blackboards or scenes with press-apply characters the children add, such as farm animals, motor vehicles and little wallpaper people.
Rose Bennett Gilbert is the author of five books on interior design and a contributing writer to other publications in the field. Send questions to Inside Advice, Food & Home, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.